THE LAST ARABIA NIGHT
Players portray the passengers of the Steamboat Arabia on May 5, 1856, the night of its final voyage. Notable events of that fateful night included an ad-hoc wedding, the murder of the bridegroom Stud Flush, and a storm that caused the ship to sink near Kansas City, drowning all hands. Players exchange clues to determine the motive of the crime and identify the murderer.
The Kansas City Inner Circle was a fun-seeking organization created in the mid-1980s by Brad Redburn, a graduate school colleague and good friend of my mother Sybil. An early KCIC event was a murder mystery party on an Amtrak train. Mystery party kits were popular in stores at the time but Brad wrote his own scenario to accommodate the over-the-top theatrics that his guests would appreciate. In 1988 the wreckage of the Steamship Arabia was discovered near Kansas City and Brad proposed another murder mystery party on a Kansas City riverboat charter. He wanted to be a player this time so he delegated the writing responsibilities to Sybil and their mutual friend Barbara. My interest in games was well-established so I was recruited as an assistant.
Sybil and Barbara hatched an idea incorporating elements from Mark Twain’s “The Mysterious Stranger” and the Streisand film Yentl. The murder victim was a fugitive woman disguised as a man who becomes a reluctant bridegroom when “he” is accused of impregnating the daughter of a wealthy family. I originally had ideas of manufacturing historic artifacts that would convey clues of the murder plot but eventually settled on a simple structure of writing a solution, editing the solution into a series of sentences, and planting the sentences into envelopes to distribute to the players. The three of us came up with filler characters for the 60-plus party guests and indulged in low-level pun (Captain Batten D. Hatches) and camp (juggler Fuzzy Balls). The party was held in the spring of 1989; I couldn’t attend due to school commitments but learned afterwards that the game was a success. The structure of The Last Arabia Night would be a foundation to several murder mystery games I wrote in my college years.